Reeling in relief
What a gorgeous weekend we had for fishing opener. Sunny days and temps in the 70s had people flocking to our great lake, its tributaries and inland waters. Someone had given us a very large fishing pole (huge, really) and right away we were inundated with stories about dislocated shoulders, arms that tightened up and wouldn't straighten out, and hand cramps. It was like being at camp, sitting around the fire and learning the legends.
I wasn't sure I believed the tales about the shoulder getting thrown out of joint from casting, but I know all about hand cramps. I remembered last year when I insisted on using an older, heavier fishing pole that probably would have been great to put a worm and bobber on and let it sit. But I had to cast, and strong and conditioned as my hands may be (think occupational bonus) they cramped.
So what was going on? Let's take a look at a few ideas, including first, the anatomy of the lower arm.
Let's say there are two kinds of muscles in the hand: Long muscles and short.
Long muscles first: The long muscles run from the forearm to the fingers, crossing all the joints in -between. The muscles that cross the joints so we can bend our fingers in order to grip the fishing pole or pull weeds are called flexors. They are located more on the palm side of the hand and forearm. When your arms are at your sides and you turn your arm in such a way that your palms face forward, you are in a position known as "anatomically correct". We always refer to the palm of the hand as the front. The muscles that straighten the fingers, as in letting go of the fishing pole, are the extensors. They are located on the back of the hand and forearm.
The short muscles of the hand attach on the hand, finger or wrist bones. In other words, they do not attach upstream on the radius or ulna, they stay in the fingers, hand, or wrist. These are the ones that help us squeeze our fingers together or spread them apart, they help us use our opposable thumbs, and help us flex and extend our fingers at the joints within the hand. In case you were wondering, they are the lumbricals, interossei and hypothenar eminence. The thumb also has short muscles.
Holding that weight for so many hours may have made the short muscles of my hand contract to the point of fatigue. It was, as they say, a bummer. I didn't want to get skunked.
So what did I do? I massaged my hands, rehydrated and stretched. Electrolytes like sodium and potassium help muscles relax and contract the way they are supposed to so I picked up a sports drink that boasted being electrolyte-laden. I took a break from my repeated casting and reeling to drink up and rub my hands between the bones and around the joints. It felt pretty good. Then I stretched my fingers, especially at the joint where the fingers meet the hand. Then, I waited. Waited to see if rehydrating and massaging my hands would help. It seemed to, or maybe just taking a little break was all I needed.
Fortunately, there wasn't a repeat of the hand cramps this year, nor any shoulder dislocation. It really was all blue skies, and we even caught some fish.
Gina McCafferty is a licensed massage therapist, and heath coach who works with women in their peri and menopausal years who have 30 or more pounds to lose.